Simmons First to Buy Liberty Bancshares in Missouri in $207M Deal

by Lance Turner and Gwen Moritz  on Wednesday, May. 28, 2014 8:29 am  

George Makris

Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff is buying another bank.

The publicly traded financial holding company (Nasdaq: SFNC) said Wednesday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to buy Liberty Bancshares Inc. of Springfield, Missouri. The deal includes the firm's wholly-owned bank subsidiary, Liberty Bank.

Per the deal, which is subject to shareholder approval at both companies, Simmons First will acquire all outstanding common stock of Liberty in an all-stock transaction valued at about $206.9 million.

Once the deal closes in the fourth quarter, Simmons First will be the second-largest financial holding company headquartered in Arkansas with nearly $8 billion in assets. Arvest Bank Group Inc. of Bentonville is No. 1, with more than $14 billion in assets. Home BancShares Inc. of Conway, the holding company for Centennial Bank, has assets of more than $6 billion.

"We are proud to welcome the associates of Liberty Bank to the Simmons family," Chairman and CEO George Makris said in a news release. "Together, we expect to continue the exceptional growth and quality customer service for which Liberty Bank is known.

"Liberty's expertise in small business lending will enhance our commercial offerings throughout our geographies and will further establish Simmons as a premier community banking organization," he said.

With just under $1.1 billion in assets at the end of December, Liberty Bank of Springfield posted net income of $15.7 million in 2013 and $14.8 million in 2012. Liberty had $116.7 million in shareholder equity as of Dec. 31.

The Missouri bank is not related to Liberty Bank of Jonesboro, which Home BancShares purchased last year.

The deal is the latest in a string of bank purchases by Simmons First.

In September, the company outbid Arvest Bank of Fayetteville and Ford Financial Fund II of Dallas for the right to acquire Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock. That purchase was completed in November.

Then, in March, Simmons First announced that it would acquire Delta Trust & Bank, chartered in Parkdale but with corporate offices in Little Rock, and its $431 million in assets. And earlier this month, the company announced the acquisition of $1.9 billion in assets in Tennessee: Community First Bancshares Inc. of Union City and its First State Bank subsidiary.

Simmons First, which is also in the process of collapsing seven subsidiary charters into the single Simmons First National Bank charter, had $3.6 billion in combined assets at the end of 2012. The acquisition of Metropolitan boosted the assets to $4.4 billion at the end of 2013, and the three acquisitions since then will push its total assets to $7.85 billion.

The Liberty Bancshares deal will expand Simmons First's presence in the Show Me State.

Simmons First entered Missouri in 2010 with the FDIC-assisted acquisition of $96.6 million-asset Southwest Community Bank of Springfield. That was followed by two more FDIC-assisted acquisitions in 2012: Truman Bank of St. Louis, with $282 million in assets, and Excel Bank in Sedalia, with $200 million in assets.

Between those acquisitions and the 2010 FDIC-assisted takeover of $508 million Security Savings Bank FSB of Olathe, Kansas, Simmons now has nine branches in Missouri and nine in Kansas.

Simmons First says Liberty Bancshares is the 10th largest bank by assets headquartered in Missouri. It has 23 locations in the southwestern part of the state.



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